I’m a Birder

We’ve been quiet on the social media front recently, at least as Meandering Life. As Jason, I’ve been pretty busy. We’ve spent the last two and a half weeks in southern Texas with another week and a half to go. Why? I’m a birder and I’ve been busy!

Yeap, I’ll admit it. I love birds. The fascination came about in late winter/early fall of 2014. The year prior I had got back into photography in a big way. I needed a creative outlet and photography was it. I’m a fairly quick study and quickly got my photog legs back after many years of just shooting my kids birthdays and the very infrequent vacation using point and shoots. I hadn’t used a “real” camera since my high school days when I took photography for several years. I didn’t know how much I had missed it until I got my first DSLR in 2013.

A fairly typical birding setup. My setup now is much more compact though.

Anyway, me being me, I needed a challenge. I had already started noticing wildlife when visiting my favorite scenic spots but I didn’t have enough reach with my current photo gear to get good shots. You see, wildlife photography uses a whole slew of expensive gear not normally required for most other forms of photography. It’s very challenging to get good shots even with better gear but I had to have it. I’ve got to get that “perfect” shot.

It was around this time that I really (and I mean really) started paying attention to the birds I was seeing. I was actually a little embarrassed when I realized just how many birds I saw that I had never seen before. I’ve spent a fair amount of time outdoors growing up and camped often throughout my life. Yet, I hadn’t paid much attention to my surroundings I guess. I mean sure, Northern Cardinals, American Robins, Blue Jays, things like that I’d seen. But what’s this blue guy flying from bush to bush? Wait, he’s pretty! Grab a picture and go home and use the power of Google to find an ID. Indigo Bunting. Wow! Never seen one of those before yet they come here year after year. Cool! What else is out there?

Indigo Bunting (Male)

Yeap, it was on. The birding bug had set in and the photography gear started getting better and more expensive. But it was getting me outdoors again. It had me exploring the area I had lived in my whole life much more thoroughly. I was hiking a lot during my free time just to get a glimpse of new birds. And of course at this point most were new to me. I just had no idea and honestly felt ashamed I hadn’t noticed them before. Priorities I suppose. As you age life tends to slow down a bit and you notice your surroundings a bit more I guess. Whatever the reasons, I sure noticed them now.

Most birders have “life lists”. It’s a list of all species of North American birds and you check them off as you see them. When I first started birding I wasn’t calling myself a birder. No, I was a wildlife photographer. If I couldn’t get a photo of a bird, I didn’t mark it off my life list. Because of the difficulty photographing birds you can probably imagine I wasn’t marking a lot off my list at first. Eventually I did come around when I realized I just enjoyed looking at birds and the challenge of finding new species that it presents. I was officially a birder.

Misty looks at a rare Aplomado Falcon through our new Vortex spotting scope in southern Texas.

So, it’s now 2019, and we are fortunate enough to be in southern Texas during spring migration. I’m in bird heaven. I’ve gained at least 20 lifers since we’ve been here. I’ve finally bought an inexpensive spotting scope to help identify distant birds. But best of all, I’ve got Misty doing it too! She got herself some good Nikon binoculars and has started marking the birds we see while walking in eBird. It’s so much better birding with people!

So this year, so far, has been a little bit more about birding than purely sight seeing for us. Of course we will still be sight seeing, but we have been planning a bit more around birding as well. Any why not? Part of what makes this country great is the variety of birds and wildlife that is unique to various parts of the US. I want to see as much of that as we can too!

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